Alex Odeh: 37 Years and Still No Justice For A Civil Rights Hero

Alex Odeh

Today, ADC celebrates his life, his work and his legacy, and recommits ourselves to getting justice for him and his family.

“[Alex had] a unique talent for bringing people of all races and religions together to work side by side for the common good of all mankind.

Washington, D.C. | | October 11, 2022 – Today, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and all Arab Americans once again commemorate a somber day. 37 years ago today Alexander “Alex” Michael Odeh was assassinated when a pipe bomb exploded as he opened the door to ADC’s West Coast office in Santa Ana, California. He died at a nearby hospital shortly after the attack. Alex is survived by his wife Norma, and their three daughters Helena, Samya and Susan. On this, the 37th anniversary of the horrific attack, ADC once again calls on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to take action against those responsible for assassinating Alex.

ADC National Executive Director Abed Ayoub said, “Alex dedicated his life to ADC and social justice. He always fought for the truth, and did it eloquently. He paid with his life for his commitment to justice and peace. Today, we celebrate his life, his work and his legacy, and recommit ourselves to getting justice for him and his family.”

Following Alex’s assassination in 1985, the FBI classified the bombing as an act of domestic terrorism and designated the investigation as one of the highest national priority. Despite solid leads, as well as advancements in technology and forensics that could aid in the investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators, no arrests have been made.

After joining ADC in 1982, Alex quickly rose to the forefront of combatting stereotyping of Arabs and biased reporting. He fought tirelessly to build unity between Jews, Muslims and Christians in southern California. On the day of his assassination, Alex was scheduled to give a speech at Congregation B’nai Tzadek, a synagogue in Fountain Valley.

Prior to his murder, Alex had been the victim of numerous hate-filled threats to his life and safety simply because of his advocacy for Arab-American and Palestinian-American rights. An exemplary and dynamic civil rights activist, he never let the threats deter him from his important work. As his wife, Norma Odeh, described him during the 1986 House Judiciary Committee hearing about the case, “he was a support organizer with a unique talent for bringing people of all races and religions together to work side by side for the common good of all mankind.”

Born in the Palestinian village of Jifna in 1944, Alex was a firsthand witness to the dispossession and disenfranchisement of the Palestinian people. In 1972, he brought those experiences to America.  Like thousands of his Palestinian Arab brethren, Alex used art to speak about the Palestinian struggle for human rights, once publishing a volume of poetry dedicated to that cause. Today, he continues to stand as a model of perseverance and dedication to all Arab Americans and Palestinian Americans.

It is important to remember the context of the terrorist bombing that took Alex’s life. It was not simply a hate crime, it was part of a series of attacks that targeted ADC offices across the country, including in Boston and Washington, D.C. This was a concerted effort by Israeli terrorist organization(s) to silence ADC. One suspected group behind the attack is the Jewish Defense League (JDL). The JDL, and other Israeli extremists adhere to the teachings of radical Rabbi Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the JDL. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the JDL  has orchestrated countless terrorist attacks in the U.S. and abroad, and has engaged in intense harassment of foreign diplomats, Muslims, Jewish scholars and community leaders, and officials.

In 1986, the FBI stated during a Congressional hearing that the “Jewish extremist elements” were responsible for the attack. Subsequent reporting by investigative journalists over the years has indicated that the FBI specifically identified three members of the JDL as those responsible for the targeted terror attack. Two of those suspects currently live on an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. As of today no members of the JDL have ever been publicly named as suspects in the attack, nor have any members of the JDL ever been charged or prosecuted in connection with Alex’s assassination.

The other primary suspect in the case, Robert Manning, is currently in prison for the 1980 mail bombing of the Prowest Computer Corp. in which an employee, Patricia Wilkerson, was killed. Manning, who fled to Israel after Alex’s assassination, was extradited to the U.S. to stand trial for the Wilkerson killing. In 1993, he was found guilty of the bombing death of Wilkerson, and in 2014, ADC and the Odeh family were recognized as victims of Manning. ADC has vigorously pushed back against Manning in his parole hearings – it is imperative that he remain in custody so he does not flee to Israel where he would be allowed to live freely under the protection of the occupying Government of Israel.

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